Will Not Eating Carbohydrates After 6 p.m. Help With Weight Loss?

Fresh chocolate muffin
Choose fiber-rich vegetables, not cupcakes, if you get hungry at night. (Image: sharpshutter/iStock/Getty Images)

The timing of your meals and snacks may affect your caloric intake, but your total daily caloric consumption and energy expenditure determine whether or not you’ll effectively lose weight. Avoiding carbohydrates after 6 p.m. may help prevent you from overeating. However, eliminating carbs after 6 p.m. isn’t a guarantee you’ll lose weight.

Benefits of Cutting Carbs

Eating carbohydrates after 6 p.m. before you go to bed may cause you to exceed your weight-loss calorie needs, especially if you're eating for reasons other than hunger -- such as boredom, sadness or stress. Harvard Health Publications suggests that eating a large number of calories, such as from carb-rich comfort foods, at night is linked to depression, weight gain and obesity. If you're an emotional eater, cutting carbs entirely after 6 p.m. may help you lose weight.

Benefits of Night Carbs

You can still effectively lose weight eating carbs after 6 p.m. if your total daily calorie intake is less than your caloric expenditure. If you're physically active, eating carbs at night may lead to increased energy expenditure the following morning. In a study published in 2014 in the “British Journal of Nutrition," physically active men who ate carbs -- or protein -- before bed burned extra calories the morning after eating the carbs. If you do eat carbs after 6 p.m., choose healthy carbs found in whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, plain low-fat yogurt, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Carbs to Avoid

Regardless of what time you eat them, certain carbs can hinder weight loss because they provide energy but contribute little to your daily nutritional needs. Examples include sodas, lemonade, sweet tea, sweetened juice drinks, baked goods, syrups, candy, doughnuts, white bread, white crackers and white rice. These carbohydrate-containing foods provide little satiation compared with protein-rich foods and healthier, high-fiber carbs.

Bottom Line

Whether or not you eat carbs after 6 p.m., creating a calorie deficit is a must to successfully shed pounds. You must burn more calories than you eat on a daily basis. To lose one-half to 2 pounds weekly, burn 250 to 1,000 more calories than you eat daily. Since protein boosts satiety more than carbs of fat, eat plenty of protein-rich lean meats, poultry or seafood, egg whites, low-fat dairy foods, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products.

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